Do you include fish in your pets diet? If not you really should start. Matter of fact raw fed or not adding the proper fish to your pets food can make a big impact on your pets health. It's one of the best and easiest fresh foods to add to your pets meals. Fish provides one of the most bioavailable sources of DHA & EPA. But that's not the only reason to feed fish.....
The two biggest reasons for feeding fish are: omega 3's and vitamin D. Fish can be used to balance omega's in the diet. Maintaining a healthy balance of fats in the diet is so important & feeding oily fish is a great way to balance out a diet heavy in omega 6. Vitamin D can also be a concern in a raw diet. Both dogs and cats must obtain vitamin D from diet as they can not manufacture it from sunlight. If your not feeding any free range or pastured meats or wild game meats your diet will likely be low in vitamin D. Fish is an excellent source of vitamin D and an easy way to ensure your pet is getting enough.
The type of fish you feed dose matter. You want to feed primarily the small oily fish that fall low on the mercury scale & high in omega 3's.
Using the chart above that would be the fish located in the top right corner.
My top choices & the fish I regularly feed include, sardine, mackerel, anchovies, smelt, and salmon. For sardines you can use the canned sardine just be sure to choose one that is packed in water not oil & look for a brand with the lowest sodium. In general you want to feed wild caught fish not farmed fish and you want to steer clear of fish from the Pacific northwest/ China. If the wild fish is fresh, treat it as you would any wild meat & freeze it for a couple weeks prior to feeding.
Another bonus of feeding fish is guess what if your feeding whole fish your feeding whole prey! Yes, a wild caught whole fish is technically a whole prey food. It is an entire animal including all the harder to find components in a raw diet like eyes, brains, all the glands and organs. This is probably the easiest way for anyone to include the benefits of feeding whole prey into the diet. No, its not exactly the same but its still a whole animal & still getting the benefits from all those extra parts contained within the whole fish.
How much fish to feed? Well, there are a ton of variables to this but to keep things simple a good rule of thumb is to feed 1oz of fish for every pound of raw food fed. This can be added daily or on dedicated days of the week. This amount can be later adjusted to your individual pets needs if necessary.
A word of caution with cats. Cats can be what I call "fish junkies". meaning they can become obsessed with fish and refuse food unless fish is mixed in. If your cat is like this & unfortunately many are due to cat foods being way too fish heavy, then be vary cautious about how much/ how often your giving them any. Contrary to what the flavors of cat food portray, cats should not consume large amounts fish. I plan to elaborate on this in a future post.
One last note. I do NOT recommend using fish oil in place of fish. There are a whole slue of reasons for this but the big one is rancidity. Due to the extremely unstable nature of the fats in fish oil it will oxidize & turn rancid when exposed to air. Meaning, every single time you use it, it's oxidizing a little more. Many fish oils will be bad long before they even get to you, others may not be but will turn faster than you will use them. Even the capsules, they are porous, air gets in, they are no good! I just don't like fish oils and cant recommend them.
Feed whole fish instead, they have so many more benefits anyway!
Before you think about the how you need understand the WHY. "Why feed your dog or cat raw food?" I cant even count the number of times someone has said this to me! It's a really simple answer, but the mindset of the average dog & cat owner is that their pets food should come from the pet store in a bag or a can. It's hard to convince someone to make the switch who has known no other way of feeding their pet...EVER!
To truly understand why dogs and cats should be eating raw diets we need look no further than the biology that is right in front of your face, or rather in your pets face. Look at their teeth. They are the teeth of an animal that is meant to eat meat. Sharp teeth, meant to rip & tear flesh, yes even your littlest, cutest pouf-ball pups and kittens are undeniably carnivores. Comparing the skull of a wolf to our domestic dogs skull they are nearly identical. Also, they can't chew in the way we humans or other omnivores do. Their jaws can only move in an up & down motion to crush and not at all in a side to side motion needed to grind down food.
Next lets look at their saliva. Dogs and cats don't have any salivary amylase, the digestive enzyme present in saliva. This enzyme would be beneficial if the animal were intended to eat carbohydrates and starches..... but they don't possess it! So this is a big clue that these animals aren't intended to be eating the carb filled foods on the shelves. Instead they have enzymes present in their mouths that kill bacteria! Ever see a dog eat poop? They can eat poop and not get sick! Not that we want them eating poo but fact is dogs sometimes do it...and not get sick.
The last thing I'm going to touch on today is the digestive tract. The length of an animals digestive tract is another clue as to what diet is going to be most appropriate for the animal. Your dog and your cat have short digestive tracts. A cats digestive tract is a bit shorter than a dogs but the dog still has a significantly shorter digestive tract than an animal classified as an omnivore. This means they have much less time to absorb nutrients. So what goes in, to get the most from it should be unprocessed, whole nutrient rich food in an unadulterated state... AKA best choice....raw! The longer an animals digestive tract the more complex foods, like vegetation & grain, they can break down.
Without getting too in detail these are just a few major reasons behind the why. But if your still not convinced think about this, every species on this planet has a natural source of nourishment including our cats and dogs.... well kibble doesn't grow on trees … just saying!